Award Winning Fantasy with a Twist!
I love meeting new authors and hearing about their work – almost as much as I love reading them! Here today to show us how detailed research can create a compelling fantasy of survival in adversity is Valerie Willis.
A sixth generation Floridian, Valerie launched her first book, Cedric the Demonic Knight, in 2014 on Amazon.com. Since then, she has added to The Cedric Series, a high-rated Paranormal Fantasy Romance Series featuring an anti-hero who finds himself dragged away from revenge on his maker by both love and the onset of a larger threat. She pulls in a melting pot of mythology, folklore, history and more into her work with a remarkable amount of foreshadowing that makes reading her books second time exciting. Rebirth is the first book in her Teen Urban Fantasy, the Tattooed Angels Trilogy, where the main character struggles with social issues and the complications of turning immortal. And if fantasy wasn’t your cup of tea, head over to her Blog for some “Val, Tell me a Story” posts featuring true, hilarious, and sometimes bizarre life events from recent to old.
What’s your background and how did that influence your work?
My main background involves Graphic Design and Game Development. If we look over my job history, I have had quite the interesting mix of many venues from cattle entrepreneur to tattoo artist to officer worker. All my experiences and the people I’ve met only inspired the many ideas which blossom with exposure. No matter where I went, both my art and writing always seemed to catch someone’s attention and through their encouragement, I finally found my way to being an author.
Who are your favorite writers and why?
I love CS Lewis’ Chronicle of Narnia since it was my first Fantasy read which drew me further into the genre back in Elementary School. By Middle school, I stumbled on Robin McKinley who taught me the hero can get beat up and become stronger through hardships in order to overcome the tribulations in their lives. Lastly, James Clavell in High School taught me you can incorporate history into a fictional soap opera sized cast and not lose the ability to teach the readers the facts of a place, a time, and an event.
How much research do you do and where do you get your information?
I am a research hound! The longest research time frame had to be for The Cedric Series. It roughly took three years to build up and find all the things I needed to get the ball rolling. Part of the obstacle I had were the subjects and rules I wanted to keep to on what research I would incorporate for the Mythology side. I wanted to use first/earliest mentioning of certain types of creatures and beings to bring back to light the roots of many of the myths and paranormal aspects we have all grown to love. In the end, I discovered my most dependable resources were actual books. Coming to my house is like a hard copy goldmine of Mythology, paranormal, medieval anything. My bookshelves are full, and still I find myself diving back to those books unable to find anything I know from them online. So many variants, but very few come from a time older than the Renaissance Era when many began to be rewritten!
What inspired this book?
Tattooed Angels Trilogy was a combination of music by Tool and the nagging thought of “What happened to the Levites in the Old Testament” from the Bible. I started working on this story in High School, but it was later in life I found the historical research needed to really pull Judgment together and get the Trilogy rolling again. The tribe of Levi did exist, but their history and disappearance is a heart wrenching one. Granted, I also wrote this to teach my fellow teenagers that taking on hardships like grief and life altering events alone can only lead to a self-destruction that rocks those in your life, even if it wasn’t intended.
What did you enjoy most about your story? What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge of pulling in disasters throughout history into this piece. I took my characters and readers to some pretty harsh events in history and even learned a lot about time frames and events from more known events like the Black Plague in London to lesser known disasters such as the 1772 drought in India. I wanted to share how much mankind as a whole has experienced, but also, add in the complications the character Talib, the element of Judgment, had to experience and why he seems so conflicted in the first book, Rebirth. It took tons of time and fretting over accuracy, which I blame on the inspiration I draw from James Clavell!
About the book – Judgment, Tattooed Angels Trilogy 2
Hotan’s reincarnation is a failure, creating an entirely new person who now must unravel the secrets to the element of Rebirth, the power in which governs all the other powers held by the other immortals. Before much progress can be made, a new entity, the element of Death shows up to threaten Hotan’s life. Burdened as the guardian of all immortals, Talib faces him and fails to overpower him with the element of Judgment. Talib’s life begins to flash before him as his life slowly fades away. Inside those disasters of history, he begins to uncover the memories his younger brother, the former Hotan, hid away. Will he overcome Death in time to save everyone?
Excerpt – Exclusive from Chapter 14, Shadow on the Sun, 1772 AD
The second one to awaken was my good friend Lucius. To this day he has not forgiven himself for what his power caused in India in the late 1770’s. We all discovered the element of Light had a terrifying side to it in that horrible decade. I had joined a regime of British missionaries and troops who were traveling to Doab and Rohileund. Our mission was to record what we saw there and give support when able. Supplies were limited, especially in means involving food and water with the condition this region found itself in as of late.
This was not the aftermath of a war, but the active fight to survive a drought unlike any in known history before or after it. To this day, no other drought conditions have even came close to the scale of starvation the Doab region felt. What frightened me was the constant pulse of power coming from the core of the maddening hunger brought on from the searing sun. Rivers and lakes were barren, people and wildlife dead or dying in the wake of the deteriorating vegetation around them. Like a thirsty beast, the sun had licked up every drop of moisture from the land and the living. Bengal was only thriving by a thin thread of relief supplies, but how long would they be fighting this force of nature? It had gone on for four years by the time I realized the element of light was at its center…
“Tim!” A hand shook Talib’s shoulder, snapping him from his thoughts. “Are you going to be able to stomach this?”
“Sadly, I’ve seen worse, Henry.” They were leaving on foot because horses were now a means of food supply. “I heard many can’t make it to the rural regions…”
I regret saying I’ve seen worse. This was the most horrific moments in mankind’s history. Sadly, it’s also the least known in modern times. Looking back, why would you want to share any of the stories of what was seen there in the desperation, the wills of those willing to survive at any costs. Of course this would be sealed away, praying never to be recalled…
“It’s true, these poor lads living here haven’t seen rain in four years now.” It was a grim expression on Henry’s face. “When they go back, I try to send children with them. To see men and women suffer is nothing compared to seeing what these young ones face. Most are abandoned, parents dead or no longer able to feed them. You’ll see, if you can stomach it, Tim.”
“Are we headed for the Doab region?” He could feel the pulse of power pull at him. This was the cause of the drought, being so close now, he could no longer doubt it. “Or is it a lost cause?”
“Unfortunately, we’ll be headed there.” Wiping sweat from his brow, Talib watched Henry pencil something in his journal. “I haven’t been there myself, just yet… not that deep into the mess.”
“I see you’ve been recording what you see?” Furrowing his brow, he patted the man on the back. “I pray your written words do not haunt you as much as the nightmares this place will give you.”
“You’re a frightening man to talk to at times, Tim.” Grunting, he put away the journal and they marched on.
It took weeks before they came across a village that still had living breathing people within its streets. To say they were surviving would be a sad lie to comfort you in the decaying landscape. They had passed trenches full of dead bodies. Worse, they had watched a dying man march himself to one and fall in, dead before hitting the pile. Sickening twists knotting themselves in his stomach as he slid down the side of the trench. Catching up to the rolling body, the man’s pulse gone, his face bearing a smile to be free. The lions in the desert had been far more forgiving than the sun here in this place.
They found themselves in a small town, once vibrant with activity from the abandoned wagons and merchant stalls. Packs of dogs, as thin as the people with starvation, watched and took account of the living. It was sickening to see the frail skin-and-bone appearance of the natives. Their grotesque physical conditions, starved and malnourished, made them appear inhuman. A dog approached a man leaning against a wall, sniffing at him, drool dribbling from its lips. Tensing he watched on, unsure of what he was about to witness. An excited yelp made the rest of the pack pause. A slight wag of the yelper called them back to where he still stood. Like vultures, they circled around the dying man, patient. They waited for him to pass on before relieving him of the little flesh he had retained. He could only assume they were too weak to take down a victim who might fight back.
“They pick them clean in two days, if that.” Henry’s voice cracked, tears fighting to be set loose at the edge of his eyelids. “But that’s not the worst of it, Tim.”
“It seems the dogs have some respect for those still alive, even if to our eyes he seems dead already.” Swallowing, he pulled the scarf further over his nose. The decaying dead around him reminding him of the smell of bodies from the Black Plague in London so long ago. “So many dead and lying on the road, the fields… wherever they fall.”
“Y-yes. Bed rest cannot heal or relieve the hunger that is eating them alive.” His shoulders tensed and he nodded at the shambling remains of a young woman who was working her way towards them. “She’s got a little one, I bet…”
The woman made it to where they stood, her skeletal fingers gripping at Talib’s uniform. “Please! Sir! I will sell my child for a rupee! For food! Water!”
Grimacing, he looked into her sunken eyes, the moisture of them gone and bloodshot. “I’m so sorry… I do not have any of those things to give.”
Where you can find Judgment, Tattooed Angels Trilogy 2
Where you can find Valerie